Thursday of week 1 of Advent – First Reading

Commentary on Isa 26:1-6
Today’s reading is a psalm in praise of Sion. There is a strong contrast with what had been said in an earlier chapter (24:10-13):

The city of chaos is broken down,
Every house is shut up so that no one can enter.
There is an outcry in the streets for a lack of wine;
all joy has reached its eventide;
the gladness of the earth is banished.
Desolation is left in the city,
The gates are battered into ruins.
For thus it shall be on the earth and among the nations,
As when an olive tree is beaten,
As at the gleaning when the grape harvest is ended.

Contrast that with today’s upbeat statement:

We have a strong city,
He sets up victory
Like walls and bulwarks.


Jerusalem is now fortified by Yahweh and is a place of refuge for the upright. This is in contrast to what is said lower down in the text:

For he has brought low the inhabitants of the height;
The lofty city he lays low.
He lays it low to the ground,
Casts it to the dust
It now lies open to the poor and needy:
The foot tramples it,
The feet of the poor,
The steps of the needy.

"Open the gates…" – to introduce a joyful procession. Again in sharp contrast to the previous passage where

the mirth of the timbrels is stilled,
the noise of the jubilant has ceased,
the mirth of the lyre is stilled.

The images parallel those used by Jesus in the Gospel, where he speaks of those who listen to his words and live them out in their lives as being like a man who builds his house on a solid rock foundation, as opposed to the man who hears Jesus’ words but does not carry them out in his life and is like a man who built his house on sand. The first house was able to withstand the worst that wind and rain could do; the second collapsed. Isaiah, speaking of the ‘strong city’, says it comes from putting one’s full trust in the Lord, identifying with him fully. Trust in the Lord forever for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock. That is what Jesus is saying too.

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